Traditionally, psychology has focused on identifying and treating mental disease. However, the new field of positive psychology can help us identify and cultivate personal strengths so as to pursue happiness and enjoy positive emotions. This constructive outlook frees us from heavy burdens of regret for our past, unnecessary sadness in our present, and fear of our future.
Many people spend too much time entertaining sorrow, blame, and guilt over events from their past. However, the past is unchangeable. All we can do now is contemplate the past, learn from it, accept our present situation and decide how we intend to move on. Consuming ourselves with negativity is never productive. If we want to be able to forgive others and want others to be able to forgive us, we must start with learning how to accept our own forgiveness.
The present is what we have. Right now, we can experience this moment, interpret it for better or worse and make a choice. We can be happier if we act virtuously – in harmony with our values. Many people have realized that acting out of harmony with their values produces a lot of unnecessary stress.This can contribute to their load of guilt (or fear of getting caught). Granted, it may not be easy to resist pressures to do things you don’t believe in. But, repeated decisions to do the right thing will begin to lock-in virtuous habits.
Is there any benefit in not trying to be pleasant at every opportunity? Smile at people with sincerity and warmth and they are more likely to smile at you, accept you or help you. We all prefer our present moment to be pleasant. But, our experience of the present is affected by more than just how others behave toward us. When our vital needs are satisfied, it helps if we can be content with what we have, without jealousy or covetousness. This kind of contentment is a blessing of satisfaction, appreciation and happiness.
There are certain things that people desire enough to be called needs. Satisfying each level of need increases our ability to be happy. Obviously, we need to sustain our lives now and will usually do what is necessary to survive. For instance, having enough air to breathe is a good start. We desperately want security from danger and deprivation; we are capable of doing desperate things to obtain food, shelter and safety.
Beyond immediate survival, we are unsatisfied without a close relationship with others and having a sense of group belonging. We feel a profound deficiency when we are at risk or without reliable friends. We properly seek more than to just satisfy these deficiencies. We also seek self-esteem and the recognition of others. Ultimately, we are happiest when we can enjoy doing good, being creative, and expressing ourselves productively.
Our future can be powerfully influenced by the choices that we make, but much of our circumstances are not within our immediate influence or control. So, why waste time wallowing in fear? Choose to change what you can and accept the rest for now. People who deliberately involve themselves with others tend to be happier; they develop their social skills, interpersonal ties and social support networks; they experience more positive emotions; they are happier.